Marula Beer

Ark of taste
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Mokhope, Ubuganu, Umkumbi

The marula is without doubt one of the most important of all indigenous African trees and shows great potential as a cultivated, multi-purpose fruit crop of the future.
The history of the Marula tree (Scelerocarya birrea,) goes back thousands of years. Several archaeological evidence shows the marula tree was a source of nutrition as long as ago as 10,000 years B.C. Most well known as the fruit that ‘drives elephants mad’, Marula is one of Africa’ botanical treasures: fruits and nuts are rich in minerals and vitamins. Also, many legends exist on the multiple uses of the tree, the bark, the leaves, fruit, nut and kernels.
The marula is a tree with a rounded crown and a rugh bark. The flowers are borne in a small oblong cluster and large and rounded fruits are borne in late summer and midwinter (January/March).

The fruits of marula tree are collected by rural people as an important food item and are also collect to make a traditional fermented beverage named by the local communities “Marula Beer”, also known as "mokhope" or "ubuganu", enjoyed by many, especially during the summer season.
The production of Marula Beer begins under the marula tree in owner’s fields and is a social event in which other women partake and provide their labour in order to receive a share of the benefits. In South Africa, people generally make it at home.

Ripe fruits are collected from the ground underneath the Marula trees. The skins are removed with a butter knife, spoon or fork and the pulp, pips and juice are then placed in a large container.
A bit of water is added just to cover the fruit which is then mashed thoroughly until the liquid is quite thick. All the juices are then squeezed out of the flesh of the fruit and then the pips and pulp are removed. The container gets covered and left for 2-4 days.

The knowledge to make Marula Beer is generally passed from mother to daughter, although some respondents indicated that they had learnt to make this beverage from their grandmothers.

Marula Beer has a profound cultural significance, both within ritual and belief systems, and for a wide variety of social practical applied purposes.
Traditionally, the management of communal tenure farming areas and woodlands has been a function of the local tribal authority. In some region, people are fined for cutting down trees in communal areas without permission, but the terms of this vary from authority to authority. However, the inability of the tribal authorities, as well as overlapping authorities in the transition period in South Africa, to police this have lead to increased degradation of the this important resource.

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Other info


Distilled and fermented beverages

Indigenous community:Phalaborwa, Ndebeles, Kalangas
Nominated by:Roberta Arciprete, Michaelin Carol Sibanda, Pierre Van Zyl